The crowd roared as Thousand Black launched into a charged rendition of its signature song, Two Hearts. Eyes were locked on the black-and-blue clad woman strumming her six-string at the head of the band. Hands clapped as she wound into the chorus, the tempo leaping to the roof as she ended another sell-out performance at the Fukuoka Dome. "Thank you very much and good night!" she then called out over the thunderous applause.
As the curtain fell, the band wound their way to their dressing room. Awaiting the star performer backstage were a crowd of eager otaku, autograph books out. Chie smiled as she began signing, emotionally drinking in their adoration. This was why she had joined Thousand Black, why she dedicated herself to music; their need to be free, even if only for a couple hours, from the everyday grind was paramount. Not to mention lucrative, but music was Chie's life and if she could earn money from that, so much the better.
Still, none of those adoring stares . . .
. . . were his.
After the last of the autograph seekers were done with her, Chie closed her eyes as she took a deep breath, and then she jolted as a familiar voice called out, "Hey, Matsuoka-sensei! Why don't you do a love song?"
"Yû!" she called back with a grin, walking over to embrace the Hiroshima girl. "Damn you, girl! What are you doing down here?!"
The auburn-eyed redhead snorted, gazing warmly at the taller ponytailed brunette with the warm chestnut eyes. "I never miss one of your concerts if I can help it, Chie! 'Sides, I was coming back from an astrology conference in Sôul and decided to take the ferry across from Pusan. How are you?"
People around them automatically parted as the old friends walked towards the dressing rooms. "Pretty okay, I guess. We're about to cut the new record."
"People still bugging you about doing ballads?"
They walked into Chie's room. The singer sighed as she sank into her chair. It had been her vow; she would never do a love song until she did one for him. "Yeah. Ryû-kun's already written one up. The test-demos look good and . . . hell, I ''want'' to do it, Yû! But . . . "
"You'd betray your promise to him," Yû noted as she crossed her arms.
"Yeah . . . "
Silence fell. Chie and Yû were two of twelve women from across Japan who shared a special bond; they had met and fallen in love with Gioo Shigôzei. One wouldn't find that unusual if they were ignorant of the whole story. Gioo was the son of a travelling office worker, one forced over a period of five years to move from city to city every six months or so, taking with him his wife and son. At each city, Gioo met a woman in school. They became close, but his father's job took the boy away, usually before some special event involving him and the girl he was with.
The women, all twelve, didn't forget, their love for him growing by leaps and bounds until one day in the third year of high school, they -- as if drawn by magic or the whimsical Fates -- went to Tôkyô to look up Gioo and attempt to forge something permanent. Deluged by the return of these twelve ghosts from his past, Gioo felt it only right and honourable to keep them an emotional distance, not wanting to break eleven hearts if he was forced to make a choice between them. The girls were broken-hearted but understood. That was when Chie met Yû, striking up a close friendship as the former pursued her career with Thousand Black and the latter got her degree in astrology and became an assistant researcher at Hiroshima University's stellar cartography lab.
"Chie, you have to let go of him one day."
Chie gave Yû a knowing look. "Would you?"
"Not really," the redhead replied, grinning. Every time she saw a meteor shower, she too dreamt of the chance. "Still, wouldn't it be nice if we all could have Gioo-chan to ourselves?"
A snort. "Hey, it'd be a perfect world!"
The door then opened, revealing to the singer's surprise her younger brother Shingo, now a sophomore at Kitakyûshû University. "Hey, Aneki! Aren't you gonna finally let the dork go and get a life?!"
"Up yours!" Chie snapped, though she spared Yû a wink. She couldn't fault her brother's concern; Shingo had never liked his sister's infatuation with Gioo. "What're you doing here? Aren't you supposed to be studying for exams?!"
"Studied enough," he said as he took a seat beside Yû. "Actually, you'd be amazed as to what I just found on the 'Net."
"What's that?" Chie wondered.
Shingo pulled out a slip of paper with a webpage address on it, handing it over to her. "This just might solve your love problems," he said with a grin and a wink, standing up to leave. "Let Yû-san look at it, too. See ya!"
As the door closed behind him, Chie and Yû exchanged looks . . .
* * *
"Oh, gods! I don't believe this!"
Chie and Yû gaped at the webpage in question. Both were presently in a private booth at a local Internet cafe. On the screen before them, the image of a very handsome man making passionate love to an impossibly beautiful woman is frozen on the screen. The former read the caption, "When engaged in sex, the RealBabe's vaginal orifice closes completely around her partner's penis, forcing out all the air and creating very intense stimulation. A RealDude's penis, whose size can alter depending on his partner's needs and wants, may do the same thing, creating equally intense stimulation when entering a woman's vagina." A whistle escaped. her. "Fuck me! Is this for real?!"
"Must be," Yû noted, ignoring Chie's profanity; she had long since become used to it. "You have to admit, the cost is pretty high, but . . . "
"Yeah, but this would be the perfect sex partner. Perfect boyfriend if you want to push it that far!" Chie noted with a shake of her head, and then she guided the mouse over to click onto another page to call up the e-mail option. "So what do you think?"
Yû bit her lip. "Well, it wouldn't hurt . . . "
* * *
A fortnight later, two nervous women relaxed by the front door of Chie's Hakata-ku apartment block, hands tightly grasping their purses. The owner of RealBabe-RealDude Japan, a doctor named Tomohisa Kai, was going to be in Kyûshû for business and had happily agreed to meet them to discuss a possible purchase.
Soon enough, a stretched limousine pulled up before them, the back door opening to reveal a handsome middle-aged man in a refined business suit. "Matsuoka-san. Nanase-san. A pleasure to make your acquaintance," he hailed with a graceful bows, and then he beckoned them inside. "Why don't you join me for a while so we can do business?"
"Arigatô," Chie replied with a nod as they stepped in. Both then blinked in surprise on seeing the doctor's companion, a lovely blonde distantly reminding them of another of Gioo's would-be girlfriends, Akira Endô of Nagasaki. She was dressed in a lovely kimono, looking demure yet still mouth-watering alluring. "Um . . . Konban wa."
"A pleasure, Matsuoka-sama," she said with a bow of her head. "My name is Mariko Kai. I just purchased your last album. It was very enjoyable. In fact, would you mind . . .?"
On seeing her produce an autograph book, Chie laughed, and then she jotted down her signature on a blank page before handing it back. Yû, in the meantime, had been staring intently at the blonde as Kai sat beside her. "Forgive me for asking this, Mariko-san . . . but are you a RealBabe?!"
"Eh?!" Chie gasped.
"Yes, I am, Nanase-sama," Mariko said with a smile, her hazel eyes glittering. "Dear, will you deactivate me and show them?"
Kai pulled out a remote. Even after seeing it on the website, watching Mariko become rock-still after several buttons on a TV-like remote were pressed took their breath away. Kai then reached up to open the android's cranial access port. "Well, are you convinced now, Nanase-san?"
"I am!" Yû then whistled. "You do excellent work, Sensei."
"While I'd love to take credit for what I manufacture, I must give the proper praise to a friend from America who introduced me to this form of sentience," Kai explained as he closed up Mariko's cranial hatch. "In the meantime, would you two care to explain what you would desire? I confess, meeting a famous singer and a published expert in astronomy at the same time strikes me as unusual."
Chie and Yû were still staring quizzically at the stilled Mariko. "Um, does she mind being shut off like that?" the former wondered.
"Actually, her power charge was getting very low; she asked me to deactivate her to conserve energy before we return home," Kai admitted, gazing warmly at his frozen companion. "It has been quite a busy day, I assure you. So, what can I do for you?"
"Well, both of us would be interested in purchasing one of your male androids," Yû began.
"Ah, I see." Kai then drew out a large binder to hand over it to them. "By all means, take a look and see what you would desire."
"Arigatô," Chie said with a nod as she started picking through the binder, Yû gazing over her shoulder at what was there. What she saw made her mouth water in anticipation. There were dozens of models available, spanning all the racial norms though most were Oriental, ranging in body shapes from the atypical bodybuilder to the more slender track runner types. There were even gangly nerds and overweight men, too! "Wow! You really cater to all potential customers, don't you?"
"I believed it to be the best approach when I started this business," Kai replied. "While my counterpart in America, David Houston, tends to keep choices for his customers limited, I believe that the customer must be the one who dictates everything, thus I try to give as much choice as possible."
"So we see," Yû noted as they both gazed on a picture of a husky-skinned slender man. "How many androids have you constructed since you started your business?"
"Well over 200 males and 450 females. That's in the last five years alone. I confess, I never thought it would take off this fast. Sadly, with the way society is changing around us, it seems for the best."
"Who buys them?" Chie asked.
"For the RealDudes, they are mostly divorced mothers who need emotional support or help caring for children at home." Kai then stared out the window at the passing Fukuoka cityscape. "It's a sad conclusion to draw about our drive during the last century to build the best society we could. With husbands gone all day, who helps the wife support the children, keep her emotional needs satisfied and the household intact? Believe it or not, a lot of my business in fact centres around old age homes and battered spouse shelters; my androids make excellent nurses and social workers. It wasn't what David had in mind when he started his business a decade ago, but there are some fundamental social differences between America and Japan."
"How'd he pull it off, anyway? I'd figure that androids like Mari-chan there wouldn't have come for years."
"Actually, I really would be hesitant to explain things to you before I'd get some sort of commitment," he warned.
In other words, the deposit money. Chie and Yû exchanged knowing looks. With that, both immediately poured over the binder. "They're all very beautiful," the latter noted as her friend flipped the page, and then she paled on seeing one model. "Buddha!"
"Wha . . . holy shit!" Chie exclaimed.
Kai blinked as the two found themselves staring at the slender man with spiky hair combed over his forehead, currently displayed in form-hugging trunks on the beach. "Oh, that's Gioo . . . "
"Gioo Shigôzei . . . " both women breathed out.
Silence. "You know him?"
"How did you meet him?" Chie asked as she stared at the doctor.
"Actually, I try to model my androids after real people," Kai admitted. "Shigôzei-kun was in his first year at Tôkyô University when I asked him to be a model. In fact, he's one of the few who's still willing to have body moulds done on him. It costs extra, but the customers really appreciate that."
Chie and Yû exchanged looks, both stunned that their long quest to win their ex-classmate's heart had led to this. From a never-ending dream, to heartbreak, to lonely wanting, to . . .?
Both then stared at the doctor. "He's the one," the former stated.
"Both of us," the latter affirmed.
"I see," Kai said, nodding. "Well, let's get down to business . . . "
* * *
A week later . . .
"Ah, Matsuoka-san. This is Tomohisa Kai," the doctor's voice echoed over the phone. "Your android is ready. Since it's not so far from my factory to your place, I can have him driven down."
"You mean it?!" Chie gasped, her eyes widening, and then she nodded. "Okay! I can be here. What time?"
"Say about nine o'clock tonight?"
"H-hai!" Chie stammered. "Arigatô, Sensei!"
"My pleasure," he replied.
As soon as the phone was hung up, Chie began a whirlwind cleaning of her basement apartment. While not a fastidious housekeeper, she did try to keep atop the junk that accumulated in this place, especially when she had the band over for practice. Fortunately, she had installed auxiliary solar panels in the veranda and on the roof to supplement her electricity needs; she had nearly a hundred million yen worth of studio and stereo equipment in the spare bedroom and the living room. Besides, he was coming to live with her. Even if he was an android, she wanted to make the right impression.
Finishing, she then prepared dinner. Even though she was no gourmet chef like Taeko Adachi (another of Gioo's would-be lovers from Aomori at the north end of Honshû), she made do with what she could. Further, RealBabes and RealDudes needed to consume food; their nanite-driven silicon-based systems required matter they could use to keep things operating to par. Their solar batteries could look after their energy needs, but to save maintenance costs, their bodies came equipped with internal repair systems that easily handled daily wear-and-tear.
Setting a candlelight dinner, Chie set out bowls of Tonkotsu râmen, kimch'i, mixed vegetables in sesame oil and steamed rice along with a bottle of expensive sake. She then showered and dressed in a beautiful dark blue flower-pattern kimono. By the time she has sprayed perfume over her, the clock struck nine. Right on the mark, the doorbell rang. Rising, checking her hair, she raced over to the door, opening it. "Mariko?!"
"Konban wa, Matsuoka-sama," Mariko said as she stepped inside. She was now dressed in a scientist's smock over a pair of slacks and a button shirt. Noting the singer's formal dress, she smiled. "You look ready."
"I feel it," Chie stated . . .
As she suddenly forgot to breathe.
Gioo stepped in. Dressed in a man's kimono of dark blue with a red obi, he is every bit the wonderful man she remembered from those heavenly six months in the last year of junior high school. Dark brown hair shaggy cut over his forehead, chestnut eyes the same shade as Yû's hair, a trim track runner's build. Taking Chie's hand, he gently raised it to his lips.
"G-Gioo . . .!" Chie sputtered.
"As beautiful as a Hakata doll," he declared.
Chie's cheeks flamed. To be compared to a Hakata doll, a fine porcelain doll of local manufacture, was a profound compliment in the eyes of Fukuoka girls. "Arigatô . . . "
"No," he said, gently squeezing her hand. "Arigatô, Siren."
Chie's mouth dropped. "How did you . . .?"
"When the doctor did the life mould for him and Nanase-sama's companion, he learned about the times you spent with Shigôzei-kun in school. Including his nicknames for you," Mariko explained.
"Um . . . er . . . r-right!" Chie stammered.
Mariko then brought in Gioo's small suitcase before she discreetly withdrew. The two remained in place, gazing into the other's eyes. "I finally have my dream," Chie then said, smiling.
"I'm glad I can help fulfil your dream," Gioo stated. "Oh, I have a message from my Onii-chan."
The real Gioo, Chie realized. "What is it?"
"Let them hear you sing a love song."
Chie blinked, and then she shook her head. "I won't sing one . . . "
"Let them hear you, Chie-chan," Gioo said as he gazed intently into her eyes. "Your heart is full of love. You share everything else through your gift of song. Share that, too. He understands."
Chie bit her lips, and then she leaned in to gently embrace him, swooning as his strong arms came up to hold her in place. "Okay . . . " she breathed out, and then she perked. "Shit! We better have something to eat before it gets cold!"
"Do you have Chris Rea?" Gioo asked as he walked over to her stereo set and began flipping through CDs.
"Put on Looking for the Summer."
The CD was located, and then loaded into the player. As the drums and guitar beat the pace, Gioo walked over, guiding Chie into the living room. They slid into a waltz -- totally inappropriate for the face-paced song -- but neither cared . . .
Look deep into the April face,
A change has clearly taken place,
Looking for the summer.
The eyes take on a certain gaze,
And leave behind the springtime days,
Go looking for the summer.
This ain't no game of kiss and tell,
The implications how you know so well,
Go looking for the summer . . .
They gazed into each other's eyes. Chie's were tearing as she finally allowed her dreams and fantasies to burst forth, take control of her every action, directing her lips to his as they stopped swaying, holding each other for all they were worth.
Chie then grinned. "To hell with dinner!"
With that, she pulled him to the floor, their lips passionately caressing as she lay down beside him. Sliding over him, she directed his hands to her obi, allowing him to untie it and slip off her top, revealing her usual army-green tank-top. Another warm kiss, and then she leaned back as he slides his hands under her shirt, gently caressing her breasts, his fingers tweaking at her hardening nipples. "Oh, man . . .!"
Strong hands guided her over him as his lips begin pecking and stroking her abdomen. Chie gasped as jolts of sheer pleasure danced across her skin, and then -- before she realised what was happening -- her top was gone. Gioo's lips found one of her nipples, suckling it as his hand gently kneaded her other breast. He rolled her onto the floor, positioning himself to allow her hands to get at his kimono.
Chie was quick to oblige, deftly undoing his obi and loosening his kimono to reveal very sexy underwear. Grinning, her hand dove into his crotch, her smile broadening on discovering what awaited her. "Ooooh! Hot time in the old town tonight!" she said with a snicker, yanking down his underwear and stroking his hardening member.
"How large do you want me?" Gioo gently asked.
A wink. "I'll leave that to you."
More kisses as he undid her skirt, revealing a pair of boxer shorts. Without hesitation, he started kissing down to her awaiting love gate. "Hey! Swing up, willya?!" Chie moaned. "If you're doing me, I'm definitely doin' you!"
A smile. "Hai, hai, Ojô-sama."
In a minute, both were coming down hard on their pleasure centres, Chie nearly gorging herself on his love stick while he was doing an excellent imitation of a vacuum cleaner on her love box. Grunting, both picked up the pace as the rush thundered through their bodies, building and building to eventual climax.
Chie struck gold first, her throat suddenly flooded by a sweet-sour fluid which -- according to the website advertisement -- was designed not to induce harmful side effects on an organic lover. She gulped it deep down, and then her own senses were overloaded as her legs locked up around Gioo's face, her south gate quivering as she hit the big O. Gasping for air, she arched back, allowing him to lick and suck her dry.
A minute later, Gioo swung up to gently draw her into an embrace. "How was that?"
"Get inside me," she ordered.
Still quite erect, he pulled Chie over him, and then deftly sank his joystick right into her awaiting gate. She gasped as that monster filled her to bursting, and then she blink as she felt him slightly deflate. Noting her questioning look, he smiled. "I don't want to hurt you."
"Shit! Are you normally that big?!" she wondered.
They laughed before beginning anew . . .
* * *
A timeless eternity later found them in bed, the covers haphazardly tossed over them. Chie dozed in the crook of Gioo's arm, her arm draped over his chest. The android's eyes were closed, his body turned down to secondary power to allow his companion the chance to sleep; it was still some time before he would need to re-charge.
Chie groaned as the phone rang, and then she stared at the alarm clock on her nightstand. Three-twenty? Picking up the receiver, she muttered, "Do you have an idea what time it is . . .?"
Laughter. "Did I wake you up?"
"Yû?!" Chie exclaimed. "Why the fuck're you calling now . . .?!"
A titter. "I trust you liked what arrived tonight?"
Chie blinked before a smirk crossed her face. Yû would've got her RealDude at the same time; the factory was in Nara near Kyôto and Hiroshima lay between there and Fukuoka. "Yeah, I did! How are you?"
"Worn out," Yû breathed out. "But I can't complain."
"Neither can I," Chie noted. "Call me in the morning and tell me all the gory details."
Another laugh. "Hai!"
* * *
Over the next two weeks, Chie and Gioo settled into a routine, building a life which worked out for each other. Nights full of hot passion, days working out with Thousand Black and preparing for the band's second album and first nation-wide tour. The other band members quickly learned of Chie's purchase, and then began treating Gioo as one of the guys. Of course, they and the record company really couldn't complain; on the new album, Thousand Black performs several romantic ballads, including the one Ryû Ikami wrote . . .
And the song Chie wrote long ago for Gioo to celebrate their graduation from junior high school, a song she couldn't play for him live because he had moved away the day before the prom.
Thousand Black's first nation-wide tour was a sell-out in every city. Even when drummer Ken Iwamoto had to drop out halfway through due to a family emergency, it didn't dampen the mood: as a precaution, Gioo had been programmed to fill in anywhere in the band and, having attended the jam sessions, knew the songs inside out. When came time to introduce the band, Chie addressed him as her cousin Gioo.
"'Cousin?!'" Yû had railed over the telephone when the band was performing in Sapporo. "Chie, people are going to figure out what he is soon enough."
"Who gives a fuck?!" Chie retorted.
* * *
Unfortunately, someone did.
Another of Gioo's would-be lovers, the Shikoku native, a budding wildlife conservationist and best-selling poet from Takamatsu, had watched one of the concerts on television, then called Chie and demanded to know how she made Gioo choose her. Hearing the woman's mournful blubbering, Chie rolled her eyes, wishing she was face-to-face with her caller so she could give the airheaded twit the bird, and then, when she got the chance, simply said, "He's a robot, Sugihara! Geez, take a Valium, willya?!"
"Robot . . .?" Manami sniffled before wailing, "Oh, how could you, Chie-san?! You're treating him like a slave!"
"No, dummy! He's a robot!" Chie roared back. "As in something you make in a lab! Switch off and turn on, just like you do with a television! THAT sort of robot!"
Manami '''still''' didn't believe her. In response, Chie arranged to have Yû bring her companion down to the Takamatsu concert, allowing both to surprise Manami with TWO Gioo Shigôzeis. To say she was stunned was putting it lightly. Then, to smooth things over, Chie and Yû ordered their lovers to give Manami all the pleasure they could.
The next day, Manami was so excited that she called Tomohisa Kai and arranged to have her own Gioo constructed!
* * *
Two weeks later . . .
"Are you sure you want to do this?"
Chie stared at Yû as both boarded the Tôkaidô-Sanyô Shinkan-sen at Hiroshima station, eastbound for Kyôto. "Hai, I'm sure," the latter said as she closed her eyes, both relaxing in one set of seats near the front of the train. "I've never been so happy, Chie-chan. But . . . I feel it's so unfair that he couldn't share that happiness."
"Neither can I," Chie admitted. "Still, he wanted to ensure we wouldn't be hurt. Couldn't be avoided, I suppose."
"Yeah, not like a lot of men," Yû noted with a frown. "Other men would play us all along like harps, date us as much as possible and prolong it as much as they can to get their rocks off. I'm glad Gioo-chan admitted he didn't want to hurt us right up front."
Chie sighed. "I am, too." She then slyly grinned. "I just hope he doesn't mind this present."
* * *
An hour later, they pulled into Kyôto station, changing to the Nara Line for the ancient Japanese capital in the hills east of Japan's second largest urban conglomeration. On arriving at Nara, they switched to the Yamatoji line for Kôriyama station, the next one down. Once through the gates at Kôriyama, they hailed a taxi for the industrial district located to the southwest of Nara itself. Tomohisa Kai's workshop was located in an abandoned textile factory, its isolation from the other businesses ensuring that no one could accidentally barge in and discover something many in Japan still weren't ready for.
Chie and Yû had been told the whole story of how David Houston was hired by the American government and employed in Project: Tin Man, exploring alien science through various UFO crashes and discovering that the "aliens" themselves were very advanced artificial beings. How he used that science to create the RealBabe companion android, launching his business a decade ago. Kai had been his first overseas customer, Mariko (whom he treated as his wife and work partner) being built eight years ago.
Sensing excellent market potential for Mariko's type of companion android in Japan (and being armed with a cybernetics degree from Tôkyô University), Kai convinced Houston to allow him to market RealBabes and RealDudes (the term for the male androids was Kai's idea) throughout east Asia. While most of his customers were Japanese, he also exported them to South Korea, Taiwan and as far away as Australia and New Zealand. So far, the American government authorities which ran Project: Tin Man hadn't raised an objection, content in observing how humans interacted with androids.
Arriving at a door marked KAI SCULPTURES (that was the term he used to describe his androids when they were shipped via parcel post), Chie knocked. The door then opened to reveal Mariko. "Matsuoka-sama! Nanase-sama! There you are! C'mon in!"
"Arigatô, Mari-chan," Chie said with a nod as they stepped inside, and then she looked around. "Whoa! This is kinda plain, isn't it?"
The inside of the factory was a level concrete floor, steel frame shelves lining all sides. At one end of the room was an examination table, currently occupied by someone covered in what seemed to be a white plaster-like substance. Several opaque glass tubes lined another wall nearby, all of them occupied by a barely discernable humanoid form. Another examination table, this one empty, lay down from the first. At the other end of the room was a computer station and several seats with wires and power cables laid out, obviously for androids to recharge themselves. "It is quite plain, I admit," Yû mused, humming. "Where's your husband, Mariko?"
"Dear's out right now, so I'll handle your request," Mariko said as she guided them to the reception area, composed of several couches divided by a coffee table. "So, what can we do for you? How are you adjusting to your companion androids?"
"It's wonderful!" Yû stated. "Every one of my dreams came true the day he walked through my door."
"Ditto," Chie added as she gazed fondly at her friend, and then she looked at the android scientist. "Mari-chan, did Gioo-chan ever tell you about the time he travelled from town to town when he was in school?"
"When he met you two and the others?" Mariko asked, and then she nodded. "Hai, he did. He was . . . very sad when he decided he didn't want to face making a choice between you. He felt you were hurt enough when he was forced to move away from you. He . . . didn't want to be responsible for causing you any more pain."
"We understand that part, but you have to understand that were it not for him, our dreams might never have come true," Yû stated. "Chie-chan would've never pursued her career in music. Manami-chan wouldn't have become a poet or joined the World Wildlife Fund. Taeko-chan and Kaho-chan wouldn't have come together to form their restaurant chain. It goes on and on. We owe him a debt for making our lives better and . . . we want to repay it."
"How?" Mariko wondered.
"We want you to make android doubles of us," Chie stated.
Mariko blinked as she took that in, and then she smiled. "You're kidding!"
"No, we aren't," Chie stated. "We know you're running a business here, so we can guess that your husband would desire to make a profit from it. Therefore, Yû and I are prepared to allow you to use us as models for new lines of RealBabe androids. We'll let you have total control over how they're exported. With one small condition: the prototypes are to be given to Gioo Shigôzei -- the REAL one -- as presents. It'd be our way of saying thanks to him for making our lives better."
Mariko nodded. "Well, I will admit that androids modelled on you would be quite popular. Your popularity in the music business, Matsuoka-sama, would provoke considerable sales of Chie-model RealBabes, especially in the wake of your last tour. While you might not be as well known, Nanase-sama, redheads seem to be very popular with many of our Australian customers."
"Then you'll do it?" Yû wondered.
"We'll be more than happy to," Mariko said, standing up. "When we do a live moulding, we allow the template the chance to profit from sales. However, since you wish to have a prototype constructed as a gift, your personal profit won't show up for some time."
"We don't mind," Chie stated.
"Okay, then." Mariko headed to a nearby desk to draw out some forms, and then she walked back to hand them over. "Please fill them out and give them back to me."
Chie and Yû gazed at the forms. They were general consent forms, allowing Tomohisa Kai to use their image (via their RealBabe doubles) to construct androids for profit, a share of the sales automatically coming back to them. A clear space was provided below the consent form; it was there that Mariko had them detail their request for the prototype's use. Once that was done, she then made a calculation of how much that would cut into profit share (if both the Chie and Yû models became popular, their profit share could easily pay for the prototypes to be sent to Gioo with some money left over for them).
There was a complex questionnaire attached, detailing their personal and sexual interests. Customers wanted as real a person as Kai could produce in his lab, yet often couldn't decide how to influence their companion's personality. Chie and Yû don't stint on details; each of these notes would be converted to complex program codes for their androids since the technology for memory copying from organic to silicon wetware was still some years away. Once done, Mariko slipped on her smock and guided them to the "examination table," where they would be immobilized and scanned so the nanites could have a complete roadmap to begin construction.
After a bout of rock-scissors-paper to choose who would be first, Yû relaxed at a chair as Chie stripped down, hopping on the examination table. Mariko fixed an immobilizer on the singer's forehead, and then set the scanner to work. Yû glanced at the opaque tubes and their stilled cargo. "Are these done?" she asked, walking over to gaze intently into one of the tubes.
"Hai, they are," Mariko said as she joined her. "These three and the one on the construction table are prototypes themselves. Once the one on the table is finished -- she should be done while you're being scanned -- she'll be placed in the storage tube for a couple of days while programming is installed. The chambers are for their privacy and to protect their bodies while they're being programmed."
"I'd think androids wouldn't be so shy around organics, especially if they're sex androids."
"You'd be surprised," Mariko noted. "Atop that, whenever we have people come in for live mouldings like yourself and Matsuoka-sama, it just prevents the templates from being distracted. We need people to be calm before we put the immobilizer on them; if they aren't, it could lead to adverse health effects later."
"Good point," Yû mused. "So who are these ones for?"
Mariko blinked, her cheeks reddening. "Um . . . Nanase-sama, I hate to say this, but you and Matsuoka-sama aren't the only ones who came up with the idea of having a RealBabe done for Shigôzei-kun."
Yû blinked, her eyes widening. "What . . .?"
Mariko sighed, touching a foot-pedal by one chamber. It opened, revealing a tall, shapely woman with wavy blonde hair and chestnut eyes, her trademark hair band gone since her cranial access plate was open to allow information to be programmed. "Akira . . .!" Yû gasped.
"Hai," Mariko affirmed. "Endô-sama came here a few days ago; she ordered her version of Shigôzei-kun a month ago and wanted to 'pay him back' as soon as she could."
Yû pointed. "And the others?"
Mariko opened the second chamber, revealing a cute brown-haired girl with short side pigtails behind her ears and freckles between her hazel eyes. "Taeko-chan . . .!" Yû gasped on recognizing the Aomori native, and then she slapped her forehead on seeing the last one, a well-exercised woman with brown eyes and brown hair drawn back in a stubby ponytail behind her head. "Oh, no! Kaho-chan too . . .?!" she exclaimed, shaking her head on recognizing the Ôsaka native.
"Hai," Mariko said as she then indicated the almost-complete android on the construction table.
Yû was quick to notice the forest of long black hair, and then she gaped as Mariko peeled the plaster away to reveal another of Gioo's would-be lovers. "Manami?! When did she . . .?!"
"Sugihara-sama offered to do it as soon as she received her companion," Mariko reported. She then blinked as a ding! echoed over the room. Closing up the chambers, she then tapped controls on the side of the examination table holding Chie to get the body mould constructed. A fine jet spray covered the singer from head to toe in the plaster-like substance. "This should take twenty minutes," she stated. "If you'll excuse me, I'll go recharge myself."
She walked over to one of the chairs at the other end of the room, opening her cranial hatch to insert the power cable, and then she sat down. Her body froze as her systems shut down to prevent a power surge from damaging her. Yû remained in place for a moment, and then she returned to her chair . . .
Before a crack! echoed from her right. Spinning around, she gaped as the mould around the Manami android broke open, her eyes blinking. "Oh, shit!" Yû exclaimed as she ran over to Mariko, looking over the unmoving android's head to try to find some way to awaken her. "Damn! How long does it take you to recharge?!" she asked before jolting as the sound of tearing plaster echoed over the room.
Looking back, she watched morbidly as Manami sat up, staring at herself quizzically. Yû then bit her lip. Mariko was down, Chie was down, Kai nowhere in sight and this new android had just been born, now in a strange world and wondering what to do . . .
They go into the chambers to be programmed! she remembered as she walked over.
Manami gazed innocently at Yû as the latter opened Taeko's chamber. "I hope you don't mind this, Tae-chan," she muttered, staring at the circuit board around her programming port. All the lights were green, which clearly must have meant she was finished. Biting her lip, she extracted the jacks, and then, on seeing a round white button, pressed it.
Taeko jerked, and then she blinked confusedly as her eyes locked on the organic. "You aren't Mariko-chan. Who are you?"
"No time to explain, Taeko-chan," Yû stated, indicating the awakened Manami. "She just broke out of her mould."
Taeko looked over. "Oh, dear!" Ignoring her nudity, she stepped out of her chamber, walking over to one of the wall-mounted computers. Calling up the programs on the monitor, she then nods. "Good, it's all ready. Let's get her inside." She tapped controls, and then walked over to clear the plaster from Manami.
Yû headed over to pitch in, taking a cloth to wipe the newborn android of the greasy-like film that remained of the nanite soup used in her construction. Manami stared at her, offering no resistance as Taeko and Yû then lifted her from the bed, carrying her over to the programming unit. Opening her cranial hatch, Taeko shut Manami down, and then inserted the leads. "There, she should be fine," she stated as she closed the chamber before walking back to the wall monitor to commence programming Manami. Once that was done, she breathed out, staring at Yû. "Well, that little disaster's avoided."
Yû relaxed. "That's good."
"Are you here for a companion?"
"Actually, I'm offering myself to be a template."
Taeko blinked, and then she gushed. "Wai! That's neat! An android of you'll be so cute! What's your name?!"
Taeko blinked as the name caused something to echo deep inside her. "Um . . . pardon me for asking, but . . . do we know each other?"
"Your Onê-chan and I know each other," Yû stated. "We -- not to mention several others -- were attracted to the same man."
"Oh!" Taeko breathed out, nodding in understanding before she stared at the chambers containing Kaho and Akira. "That makes sense. Kaho-chan and I were constructed at the same time. Excuse me, I should check on her."
Yû pointed her way. "Shouldn't you get dressed first?"
Taeko blinked, and then she blushed as she raced off to slip on a yukata before opening Kaho's chamber. Yû shook her head, and then she perked on hearing Mariko stand up. "What happened?!" the scientist wondered.
"Manami-chan decided she wouldn't wait to get out of her mould," Yû stated with a smile as her host walked over to join her. "I had to wake Taeko-chan up to help Manami-chan into a programming chamber."
"Oh, that's good!" Mariko breathed out in relief, and then she gazed on a nearby clock. "Well, Matsuoka-sama should be done soon. I'll get the table cleaned up and start work on her double as soon as we have her out of the mould, then scan you."
"They won't burst out right away, will they?" Yû asked.
Mariko laughed as Taeko walked back in, now in a bathing yukata, another in hand for Kaho. "What's wrong?" the latter wondered, blinking quizzically.
"Nothing, Tae-chan," Yû stated.
The android blinked, and then she shrugged as she opened Kaho's chamber . . .
* * *
Three days later . . .
"Ah, Gioo-kun, this is Tomohisa Kai."
"Sensei, what's wrong?!" Gioo asked as he sat down, gazing out the window of his studio apartment in the Shinjuku ward of Tôkyô.
"I hate to say this, but I'm afraid your other would-be lovers decided to give you a 'present.'"
Hearing that, the young salaryman tensed. "You're kidding."
"I wish I wasn't," the scientist stated with a chuckle. "How are you adjusting to having ''six'' RealBabes living with you?"
"Well, it gets interesting at times," Gioo admitted. "I'm glad I've got the auxiliary solar panels set up here; my electricity bills would skyrocket if I had to recharge them through city power."
"Well, they'll be there soon enough. Enjoy!"
The phone clicked off just as a pair of lovely arms embraced him. "Gioo-kun, is there something wrong?" Wakana asked.
Gazing at the android double of his friend from Kyôto, Gioo wryly grinned. "The others seem to have come up with the same idea your Onê-chans did."
Wakana's eyes widened. "All of them?"
"Hai, all of them."
The brunette android took a moment to consider that, and then she chuckled. "Don't let it bother you, Gioo-kun," she said before leaning down to kiss his cheek. "They did it because they love you, as our Onê-chans love you. And we will love them because they love you and we don't want to see you unhappy."
Gioo sighed. "Who wouldn't be unhappy with you around?"
Wakana laughed . . .
To Be Continued . . .
Sôul - My way of Romanising the Korean han'gûl characters 서울, which is normally written in English as Seoul.
Tôkyô - As you can guess, this is the proper way of Romanising the Japanese kanji characters 東京 (normally written in English as Tokyo). This would be written in hiragana as とうきょう (to-u-kyo-u). Putting a macron "-" or circumflex "^" over vowels in Japanese shows the sound to be extended (an extended "o" sound is normally written in hiragana as おう [o-u]). The double "o" in Gioo's name is indicative of two separate syllables (in hiragana, his name would go ぎおお [gi-o-o]).
Aneki - One way of saying "elder sister" in Japanese.
ku - Metropolitan city ward.
râmen - The proper Romanisation of "ramen," the popular Japanese noodle dish.
Tôkaidô-Sanyô Shinkan-sen - The bullet train (Shinkan-sen literally means "new trunk line") connecting Tôkyô to Ôsaka and from there to Fukuoka. Tôkaidô literally means "East Sea Route," which is the classic name for the road from Kyôto (the old Imperial capital) to Tôkyô. Sanyô means "sunny side of the mountains" and describes the region on the southeast coast of Honshû on the shores of the Inland Sea.